An emergency C-section turned Katie Bernal-Hafner’s plans upside down. For Marie, her newborn daughter, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital would serve as home for much longer than Katie had anticipated.
Born 10 weeks early after an emergency C-section, Marie weighed just two pounds, 15 ounces. “Her backside could fit inside my hand,” Katie remembers.
The hospital moved Marie to its level III neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. There she would get the dedicated 24-hour attention she needed along with access to life-saving equipment and technology. Once housed in the NICU’s isolette (an incubator for infants), Marie received constant monitoring and care from the hospital’s neonatal team until she was fully ready to leave.
Katie, too, was often with Marie in the NICU. Through the many difficult days and nights, what truly stood out for Katie about her experience was how deeply the team seemed to understand and offer reassurance.
“I remember, one of the nights I was sitting there, a nurse came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder, and she said, ‘It’s not your fault.’ That compassion and empathy, that feeling that gave me… it sets them apart.”
A further comfort for Katie was being able to live on the hospital’s grounds at the Bill and Elizabeth Shea House. This four-bedroom residence helped her watch Marie grow bigger and stronger in the NICU day by day. Funded through generous individual and community donations, the Shea House provides free lodging to out-of-town families whose children have lengthy hospital stays.
Whenever she sees Marie, now a lively, healthy child, Katie recalls her experience, grateful for the hospital’s loving and high-level of care.
“To have this high-level NICU right here in Santa Rosa is amazing. It was the care, really, that helped her to grow,” says Katie. “I just can’t thank the generosity of this community enough for what they’ve done to build such an incredible NICU, an incredible team, an amazing Shea House. Thank you will never do it justice.”